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Guatemala2 March 2007

Death threats against TV journalists who covered murder of four police officers

Reporters Without Borders voiced its support today for the staff of the TV station Cable Guatevisión, who have been receiving death threats since 25 February after broadcasting a report about the murder of four detained police officers inside a prison. The organisation fears criminal infiltration of the police.

“The execution of four policemen inside a top-security prison where they were being held on suspicion of involvement in the murders of three Salvadorean legislators is reason to fear that the police and security services have been dangerously infiltrated,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“The case has sparked an outcry and journalists are running a great risk trying to find out about possible death squads of the kind which used to operate with such terrible effect in the past,” Reporters Without Borders added. “The government must carry out the necessary investigation before these armed groups target civil society or the media.”

Three Salvadorean legislators participating in the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) - Eduardo d’Aubuisson, William Pichinte and José Ramón González - were murdered along with their driver about 40 km from Guatemala City on the night of 19 February. D’Aubuisson was the son of the late Roberto d’Aubuisson, a notorious death squad leader during Salvadorean civil war (1980-1992).

Four policemen aged 28 to 39 were arrested on 21 February on suspicion of murdering the Salvadorean legislators and were placed in the El Boquerón top-security prison east of the capital, where they were shot dead four days later. Witnesses said they were executed by a group of hooded gunmen who penetrated the prison but the interior ministry said they were killed in the course of a prison mutiny. President Oscar Berger has had to publicly acknowledge the existence of corruption, drug trafficking and another abuses within the security forces.

Cable Guatevisión news director Haroldo Sánchez said the journalists who produced his station’s report on the murder of the four policemen were themselves filmed and photographed by the security forces. He said the station has been getting “email messages warning that we will be killed” since 25 February. He has personally been warned “not to cover this case any more,” he added.

Guatemala is a high-risk country for the press. A journalist was murdered there last year and another was seriously injured in a bombing.



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